Table of contents
- Why cruise in Greece
- What to bring along
- The most popular destinations
- The most interesting yachting destinations
- A few words about Greece
- Greek food
Yachting in Greece is a dream-come-true... Cruising in the Greek seas has become very popular during the recent years. Greece has to offer the yachtsman a great deal, not only because of its splendid natural attractions in the Aegean and Ionian, but also thanks to the readily available supplies, both on the islands and around the mainland. Furthermore, the country boasts 2,000-plus islands to explore, a chance to visit deserted beaches and more than 20,000 km of beguiling coastline to see.
As requirements are becoming more demanding and the country experiences a rapid development in that field, comprehensive programmes are underway for the creation of a number of new harbours and services for yachts and cruisers, to supplement the existing infrastructure. Programmes include the construction of new marinas, smaller harbours with a standard range of facilities and emergency docking.
Weather is rarely a problem. The mainland, as well as the islands, has several shelters along the way, which are easily accessible. Weather conditions in Greece are generally characterized by bright sunshine and minimal rainfall. On the other hand, winds vary considerably between the months of April to October, but wind direction and force vary from one local zone to another.
Yachting in Greece is the ultimate dream-come-true and there is nothing like exploring the country's innumerable bays and inlets, dipping into crystal-clear waters and lying under cloudless skies with which the loving God has blessed the country. And beware of a Greek speaking about Greece!
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Indeed for the pure air and sea. You can sail away from polluted cities, crowded airports and hotel lobbies. You can be in comfort, with your own crew, your private sun and blue skies. For privacy, any island offers you remote beaches, secluded bays or almost barren rocks, all hospitable. However, like the Greek people, you can be on your own, sailing, swimming, skiing or just relaxing. For exclusivity, there are countless places in Greece, which remain unspoiled by tourism. These can be all yours! They are not all that far away, but access to them is impossible except by yacht! Drink your champagne in a cave where the sea takes colours from a wide palette, have your steward offer you snacks in a secluded bay with white sandy beach!
Fabulous holidays in Greece, the land of Apollo, mean a lot. The sea and sun constitute the two basic ingredients. Greece, the land of the Sun and the Gods, offers you an endless variety of picturesque places from which to choose those that suit you best: The Ionian Sea (West Greece), the Cyclades (East Greece, Aegean Sea), the Sporades, the Dodecanese, the Northern Aegean, Crete island, all with remote or cosmopolitan islands, rocky or pine covered, reveal a kaleidoscopic variety for you to enjoy aboard your yacht. Greece is not just the country you know, but rather a series of Greeces, each superimposed on the other like successive layers of soil recording the passage of time. Most of the temples and other archaeological sites may be visited by yacht.
A good 300 days a year the Greek Sun is at its best becoming ideal when on a yacht. Sail away from dusty and polluted cities to the clean air, blue sky and crystal-clear waters. A unique form of equilibrium between man and his thought, manifested in temples and sculptures which have spanned the centuries, forever recalling us to order. A way of life also remains, which is another "call to order" because joy and contemplation -in order to be practical- require nothing else but a certain sky and a certain purity of heart. This is another daily luxury in Greece! On a yacht you can discover this world and mix with the local people, who are colourful and hospitable. You can go to places where only a private yacht can go, to enjoy sipping wine at the seaside cafe, or eat feta and moussaka at the tavern with the bouzouki player whose musical strains will make men dance. You can go to places where peasant girls spin wool while guarding their flocks, where little donkeys carry the traveller up from the port of Santorini to the village, where automobiles and pollution will be unknown, where the door of a house which opens to a stranger will set in motion sacred rites of hospitality. For the past as for the present, for all she offers, Greece remains a part of your reason for living.
A wonder of breathtaking landscapes, a nature beyond words to seek for your soul, blue waters in a palette of all blue colours, fabulous waters safe for kids and adults to swim, anywhere, since no dangerous species live in them. Historical and ancient treasures on all islands and undersea create bonds with the past, strong alternations in landscapes beyond imagination, unforgettable moments you will experience. Infinite yachting areas each with a different colour!
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Aboard your own yacht you may have all you need for every occasion, but do not forget the essentials, such as cotton trousers, lots of t-shirts, swimming apparel, deck shoes, shorts, casual evening wear, large sea towels and your music cds. A sun-hat and sunscreen are recommended. Remember, sun glasses are a must in Greece. It is not the sun stroke that should worry you, it is the sun glare that effects the eyes. Please keep them on at all time even if you are in the shade. At the beginning and at the end of the season light waterproof weather gear is recommended it may also be necessary. Since storage space in smaller yachts is rather limited, it is better to carry your clothes in soft-sided bags and not in suitcases.
The most popular destinations in Greece
The island of Corfu
Welcome to Corfu (Kerkira or Kerkyra), one of the most beautiful islands in Greece. It is situated in the country’s northwest corner. It is the second largest Ionian Island, of which Cephalonia is the largest. These islands form a group and are all in the Ionian Sea. Geologically Corfu shows a striking resemblance to western continental Greece, with which it once formed a single unit before being separated from it by continental reef movements.
All around Corfu there are authentic little taverns, restaurants with local or international cuisine, cafes, bars and nightclubs. Furthermore, there is a year-round market for Greek and International luxury goods at bargain prices.
Corfu’s millennia-long rich history and culture have bequeathed the island with many relics and traditions. From Achillion, the beloved Empress Sissy’s resort, to the humblest chapel, from ancient city foundations at Palaeopolis near Canoni to the highest Byzantine or Venetian fortifications Gardiki castle, Angelokastro, the Old fortress and the New fortress, from Roman Spas at Benitses and exquisite palaces of St Michael & St George or Mon Repo to austere monasteries of Panayia Palaeokastritsa or of Platytera, there is a lot to charm the inquisitive traveller. And beware that one is not carried away by Corfu’s three Philharmonic Societies and the more than 30 brass bands at large on the island!
Flaming sunsets, exotic scenery, magical colours, romantic moonlight, luxurious vegetation, (lush green even in the height of summer) a riot of radiant flowers and colourful blooms, centuries old silver olive groves, glowing oranges, scented lemons, rich pergolas, sleepy lagoons, forgotten coves, bubbling springs, exciting caves, virgin beaches, golden sands, and pellucid turquoise emerald seas there is surely no other island in the whole universe to which these superlatives collectively apply. Climb to Vigla in the time of cherries and look down. You will see that the island lies against the mainland roughly in the form of a sickle. On the landward side you have a great bay, noble and serene, and almost completely landlocked. Northward the tip of the sickle almost touches Albania and here the troubled blue of the Ionian is sucked harshly between ribs of limestone and spits of sand.
The island of Crete
The city of Chania or Hania, identified with the ancient city of Kydonia, is the capital city of the Prefecture of Chania. Chania Prefecture, Crete’s westernmost district, is occupied by “Lefka Ori” (White Mountains), a mountain complex with very interesting formations like the Samaria Gorge, a must for every visitor. Very famous for its ecological importance, including the wild long-horned Cretan goat called the kri kri, the Samaria Gorge attracts thousands of visitors every year. Undaunted by the long trip to the top of the gorge (about 42 kilometres from Chania), and thrilled with the 18-kilometer descent and trek through the gorge itself, those who appreciate nature walks will not be disappointed with the dramatic scenery. It is truly one of the greatest natural ecological sites of Europe. On the northern coast, Crete’s largest natural port, the Port of Souda, is to be found.
Heraklion Prefecture is the largest of the four prefectures of Crete and is bounded to the Prefectures of Lassithi to the east and Rethymno to the west. It covers an area of 2,641 sq. kilometres and is inhabited by some 300,000 people. The capital city of Heraklion Prefecture is Heraklion City, Crete’s largest city and port. The soil is rich in the valleys of the central and northern parts of the prefecture, otherwise it is mountainous, with the mountains of Idi and Asterousia occupying its southern part and coast. Matala beach known from the days of the psychedelic era of the 60s, is the most well known of the few beaches on the south. The north coast, nevertheless, is lined with fantastic beaches, visited by thousands of people. Off the north coast, Ida islet is part of the prefecture.
The prefecture has a Mediterranean climate which can become rather hot in midsummer. The mountains, though, have much cooler weather during the summer, with winter temperatures dropping around the freezing point, and with eventual snowfall. The main agricultural products of Heraklion are olives and olive oil, vegetables, tomatoes and wine. Peza Valley produces 70% of the wine production of the whole of Crete, which in turn is 20% of the total Greek wine production.
In Heraklion Prefecture, there are several archaeological of imprortace sites to visit, among them being the three of the four Minoan Palaces found on Crete, Knossos, Phaestos and Malia.
The Prefecture of Lassithi lies at the easternmost end of the Crete, home to Agios Nikolaos, the resort of Elounda and the island of Spinalonga. It covers an area of 1,818 sq km, and its population is around 72,000 inhabitants. The general impression is the same as in the rest of Crete, long sandy beaches, green valleys with small villages, and islets here and there in the crystal-clear waters.
The capital of the prefecture is Agios Nikolaos. It is inhabited by around ten thousand people and is built, both town and port, in the picturesque Mirabello Bay. This friendly harbour is no different than any other small-sized one in Crete. Both cosmopolitan and traditional, it gives shelter to both luxury yachts and fishing boats of the local fishermen bringing in the catch of the day. Traditional cafes, along with more modern cafeterias and all kinds of small shops are welcome visitors and locals alike, creating a relaxed rhythm of life! An acceptable level of services to both the non-demanding visitor and the demanding one, the hospitable people and their local traditions all merge to form the all-Cretan atmosphere of this town.
The Port of Sitia to the east, the cosmopolitan Elounda, with its high level of tourist infrastructure, and the town of Ierapetra, southeast at the narrowest point of the island, also welcome you. The beautiful plateau of Lassithi, ornated by its many villages and hundreds of windmills, relics of a not so remote past when Man and Nature coexisted in much more reverent terms, the famous palm-tree forest in Vai, are just some of the beauties that the prefecture of Lassithi has to offer.
Lassithi Prefecture, like everywhere else in Crete, has been gifted with many remarkable Archaeological and Cultural Treasures, a result of Man’s existence here since prehistoric times. The long Cretan History has bequeathed Lassithi with many ancient, medieval, and more modern relics. Venetian and Turkish monuments add to the uniqueness of the region, and Greek-Orthodox monasteries, Ottoman mosques, Byzantine churches, Venetian castles, and clock towers are to be found everywhere. The ancient Minoan Palace in Zakros is worthy of a visit to the region, solely on its own merits.
Welcome to a real world of miracles! Whatever you have heard of Crete comes true to its extreme when we speak of Rethymno Prefecture, where words reach their limits and the beauty can only be experienced. Scenic beauty, as well as a distinct local culture, are so inviting to everyone that this region is a magnetic pole of attraction year round! Snow-capped mountain peaks, deep and narrow gorges, fertile valleys watered by the sweat of the people of Rethymno, endless golden sand beaches and the ever-changing colours of the sea contribute to rich and relaxing surroundings, ideal for memorable vacations.
Remains of the past, which testify to the glorious history of this land through time, an intrinsically hospitable and fun-loving people, a perfect tourist network, and a very beautiful capital city (Rethymno) define the character of this part of Crete.
Despite the long incoming tourism tradition of Rethymno, and despite the fact that a great number of visitors decide to, yet another time, revisit the area, there is always a new surprise round the corner, yet another hidden secret for you to discover, fascinating and thrilling, breathtaking and enticing, or relaxing and educational, Crete in general, and Rethymno in particular, are a must for the contemporary world traveller.
The island of Kos
Kos Island, third largest in the Dodecanese is the island of the father of Medicine, Hippocrates, of the solfatara fields and hot springs, of the wetlands of Psalidi, of the three-aisled basilica of St. Stephen’s early Christian church, and of the contrasting Town Minaret, of the Asklepeion ancient Temple of Medicine, of the Neratzia Venetian Castle of the Knights of St. John, at the entrance to the harbour of Kos, of the plane tree of Hippocrates in front of the harbour, of the kilometres long Paradise, Camel, Tigaki, and Marmari beaches, just to name a few. World famous is the taste of Kos, of the exquisite traditional confection, Glyko Domataki (baby tomatoes in syrup), of marvellous local wines, of roast red peppers stuffed with Feta, of outstanding seafood fresh from the sea.
The island has long been known for its marvellous climate and outstanding beaches, two very important ingredients for any summer holiday in Greece. Kos surely delivers all of that, plus an incredible variety of activities. The island’s long, narrow shape provides for a lot of coastline, approximately 128 kilometres in total.
Of course, we have to mention the nightlife of Kos! The town and all of the resort areas have a very lively night scene, including traditional bars and clubs, discos, DJs, live music, and even traditional dancing. Beware, this island does not sleep at night!
Kos is particularly known as a shopping paradise a multitude of shops offering beautiful jewellery shops, hand painted icons, locally produced fresh alimentation products, and local artwork, and you can do all your shopping on the spot interesting daytrips include a visit to nearby Kalymnos, famous for its sponge divers; or a visit to nearby Nissiros to explore the sleeping volcano. If you would like to take a bit of time and explore the interior of the island, you will have a chance to see some fantastic natural scenery and explore some of the original villages of the island, such as Zia and Pili.
The island of Mykonos
...Indeed, the Jewel of the Aegean is just as bright and shining as ever. The Greek island which the international jet set has chosen to be their meeting place. Mykonos is the place where fun lasts for 24 hours every day of the summer months.
Mykonos has a wonderfully rich and variegated past, a marvellous history, and an honoured place in Greek mythology. There are always surprises to be found here! The light of Apollo is evident everywhere on the island, and art, beauty, and form are all visible in the simplicity and eloquence of dazzling white structures and a centuries-old labyrinth of tiny streets and alleyways. The light is further enhanced by the reflection of aqua jewelled and crystal clean waters. All of this, combined with outstanding shopping paradise, excellent cuisine, and marvellous entertainment settings, proves again and again, that Mykonos is the quintessential island paradise of the Aegean Sea.
The matriarchy of this island was established because the men were away fighting, fishing, or pirating! Their absences were so prolonged that the women were compelled to be self-sufficient and had to tend to animals, fields, and houses, in addition to the children. Even today, the man may appear to be in charge, but no decision is made unless his wife agrees!
The Tourliani Monastery in the Village of Ano Mera is one of the oldest monasteries in the Aegean, dating to 1580. It contains one of the most beautiful alter screens carved in Italian baroque style (Florence 1767), plus a marble baptismal font from the 18th Century. Its Icon of the Virgin Mary is one of the last pieces of the work of the Apostle Luke. It is constructed of candle wax and Chios mastic (gum) and is believed to have miraculous powers. One of the best maritime museums in the Cyclades is located right in Mykonos town, detailing the nautical tradition for which Greece is so well known.
There are at least 365 churches and chapels on the island, most of them endowed by sailors safely returning home during the 17th and 18th centuries. There is documented proof of man’s presence on Mykonos dating back to the 7th millennium BC. And, there is a vaulted Mycenaean tomb on the grounds of a luxury hotel! Neolithic settlements can be found throughout the island at numerous locations.
The nearby island of Delos was the most important religious site in the Aegean in antiquity, and dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. There is so much to see at this site (it is actually the largest open-air museum in Europe!) that you need more than one visit just to scratch the surface of this incredibly well preserved archaeological site. Today, the island is well secured by guards making sure that no one removes even one small stone from the island. It strictly adheres to its 15:00 closing time, and even private yachts are not allowed to anchor near its shores overnight. Only licensed excursion boats based on Mykonos and professional guides are allowed to take visitors to Delos.
The local celebrated revolutionary, Mando Mavrogenous, was extremely instrumental in the Greek War of Independence. She emptied her family’s coffers and spent their entire fortune on a fleet of ships and their crew in order to defeat the Turks. Later during the war, when the Turks invaded Mykonos, she led an “army” of teenagers and half-naked women, all of who remained on the island after the men had left to fight, and to the great surprise of the invaders, repelled their attack. A two drachma coin has been minted in the past in her honour. A statue dedicated to her memory is prominently displayed near the waterfront, right in the centre of Mando Mavrogenous or Taxi Square.
While Mykonos appears almost desert-like in the hot summer months, it has one of the richest flora in the Aegean, as can be seen in the spring months when the wildflowers appear and cover the hillsides. During the summer season, local people on their donkeys can be found every day on the waterfront selling their flowers in the open market … you’ll see them not far from the pelicans waiting for the fishing boats to return with a nice “snack.”
Apollo, the god of light, was born on Delos. Thereafter, it was decreed a sacred island, and no mortal could be born nor die there. The grandson of the god Apollo, the god of “light,” was named Mykonos. Annyos, Apollo’s son and father to Mykonos, was married to the niece of the god Dionysus, the god of “fun.” The island was thus named after their son; how fortuitous could it be that these deities could so early on describe what would represent present-day Mykonos … an island filled with light and fun!
The island of Paros
Paros, the windsurfer's paradise, the island of traditional villages with whitewashed cubic houses, of beautiful Aegean land and seascapes, of the valley of the Jersey Tiger moths, of golden sandy secluded beaches with crystal clear blue water, of tiny fishing harbours, of the legendary Ekatontapyliani Church, Our Lady of the One Hundred Gates.
Welcome to the island of vibrant nightlife, of the cosmopolitan atmosphere and unspoiled anonymous fishermen and villagers, of the translucent Parian marble, the raw material for masterpieces like The Venus de Milo and Praxiteles’ Hermes, of the Myths and of the Legends, of the stalactite caves of Antiparos waiting for you to explore, of the ancient town ruins at the bottom of the sea in Ageria near Aliki, of the water springs in Drios, of the Ceramic Museum of I. and B. Kidoniati, with collections of traditional ceramics in Lefkes, of the ruins of the 10th Century Venetian Castle on the hill of Kefalos in Marpissa, of the Mycenaean installation at Ai. Yiannis, of the archaeological monuments in Naoussa.
Tourism has been very kind to Paros, and the island has changed quite a bit within the last 20 years. It now offers a high level of tourist infrastructure, yet still has lovely unspoiled areas and plenty of marvellous sights and attractions. There is ...more on Paros
Parikia is the lively, picturesque capital of the island and its main commercial port. In fact, its port is a connecting hub between the western, eastern, and lesser Cycladic Islands. The capital has some excellent restaurants and taverns, and a nightlife nearly rivalling that of nearby Mykonos. Parikia offers fairly decent bus connections to some of the outlying beaches south and southeast, as well as to Naoussa, the picturesque fishing village on the north coast.
Paros lies just west of Naxos, the nearest island after Antiparos, and with excellent ferry connections to it. It is similar in size and topography to Tinos Island and, like Tinos, also has an important church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Panagia Ekatontapyliani. Thousands of pilgrims arrive on the island on the 15th of August to pay homage and celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The impressive church is situated in Parikia, and is surrounded by high, thick walls enclosing the grounds, which include a lovely garden at its entrance and an excellent museum.
The island of Rhodos
The Island of Rhodes is the sunniest place in Europe. It averages 300 days of sunshine per year. It is the fourth largest island in Greece. Occupied by Italy until only nearly half a century ago, it is now “occupied” by thousands of enthralled international visitors.
The “palia poli” (the old city) is the medieval city of Rhodes, surrounded by a high defensive wall. It is one of the few medieval cities still inhabited in its largest part, excluding its museums, of course. Walking along its cobbled streets one is reminded of iron-armoured horse’s hooves clapping, and steel swords clashing and clanging.
When you are tired of going round in the Old Town, the New Town of Rhodes, just a short distance from the Old Town, awaits your exploration. This is where the beaches lie, and where hotels, shops, restaurants, discotheques, and even a casino, are packed together to create a lively ambience.
A walk in Rodini Park is a must. This park is perhaps the first landscaped park in the world. It is a couple of kilometres away from the Old Town, and one can see part of the ancient aqueduct system of Rhodes within it.
No visit of Rhodes is complete without visiting Lindos. You'll find Lindos at a distance of 55 kilometres from Rhodes town, on the eastern side of the island. Built in the 12th Century B.C., it is now a top-class resort, with a fine sandy beach and a tiny lagoon, which reflects the whitewashed houses and the Lindos Acropolis above. The village contains many houses dating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, which are known as “the houses of the captains.” Their architecture and decoration are unique in the Greek world.
Santorini, the island of the volcano. Santorini is the island of breathtaking views of the Caldera, of the best Aegean sunsets, of the houses built atop one another, of Fira, Oia, and Imerovigli facing the volcanic islands of Mikri and Megali Kammeni, with beautiful hotels and places to stay that overlook the archipelago, with some breathtaking views, where all of the other Cycladic Islands are proudly scattered. Santorini, the romantic, the coveted destination of honeymooners, with its precipitous heights placing them between God and their future lives. Santorini of the archaeological site of Akrotiri, with wall frescos in this prehistoric city buried under tons of volcanic ash, and of the multicoloured sand beaches of white, red, and black.
Santorini restaurants and taverns offer both International and Greek cuisine, with local sun-dried tomatoes used frequently as a basic ingredient. Please, don’ t fail to order the local Santorini wine, produced by fermentation of the "must" pressed out of grapes that have been exposed to the heat of the sun, producing a denser juice and a unique taste.
Though appearing quite small on the map, Santorini offers so much for its size unique natural volcanic scenery, a long and rich history, an ancient and splendid Greek culture, marvellous food and Santorini wine, an ideal Mediterranean climate, and friendly people who offer true Greek hospitality ... all guaranteed to bring you back many times throughout the years to come.
The island of Tinos
If you're looking for mass tourism and crowded beaches, then this destination is not for you. Tinos is an island for those who appreciate the old ways and lifestyle of the islanders, the authentic picturesque villages that one hopes to find on a Greek island and the simple Greek cuisine that Greece itself is famous for. Here on Tinos, it's back to basics.
When you first arrive at Tinos Town, you will certainly be thinking that the previous paragraph applies to a totally different island, and that we've made a drastic mistake in our text. Rest assured, however, that the hustle and bustle of the town does not apply to the rest of the island! During the summer months and on the weekends, the town is throbbing with activity, primarily due to Greek visitors here to pay homage to the Holy Virgin at the famous Church of the Panagia. Unfortunately for many of them, they do not have the opportunity to visit the rest of the island, as most visitors for the Church stay only a few hours or for only one night. The rest of the island lies undiscovered and its beaches remain ever so inviting.
Since we are already in the island of Aegina, you may start with the near Athens area of the Sarinic and Argolic Gulfs.
Aegina or Egina. This is where Planaco Yachtyard is situated. You may read more about the island in a separate section of this web site. Here, suffice to say that mythology relates that Egina is named after the daughter of Asopos, who was abducted by Zeus. Egina famous for its pottery is covered with pistachio trees. Pine forests surround its beautiful green villages. It is also the home to one of antiquity's most famous temples, to Aphaia with 24 standing pillars. The capital of the island, Egina, is particularly picturesque with colourful mansions, ever-busy streets, horse driven carriages, numerous shops selling pistachios and ceramics. The following are just a few of the most interesting places within a short sail from the island of Aegina.
A volcanic island, formed through the union of two smaller islands, Kalavria and Sphaeria. Archaeology highlights: The scant remains of the Sanctuary of Poseidon, 5 km from the town of Poros on the road to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi. Swimmers will find charming little sandy bays along the way to Neorio, rimmed with pine trees down to the sea. Life on Poros is spent with dives in clear waters, visits to seaside resorts and night escapades in a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and lively discos.
Famous for maritime tradition, as is Spetses a favourite of celebrities. The Chora is picturesque and beautiful; with high colourful sea captains mansions lining the waterfront while a stark grey hill rises in the background. Between the mansions are narrow streets with taverns and shops, where the foreigners gather after they reach the small port of this charming island. Hydra is also blessed by the absence of motorcars.
Is furthest from Athens. Charming horse-drawn carriages are the form of travel in style, as cars are not allowed on the cobbled streets. Bougainvilleas overflow the white-washed garden walls that enclose the pebbled yards of the mansions. Antique cannons decoratively guard the scenic harbour, and the dozens of shops and cafes that line the shore. A sight worth seeing on Spetses is the house of Bouboulina, the Revolutionary heroine, the Mexis house, now a museum and the church of Agia Triada with its carved iconostasis. Among the most popular beaches on the island are Agii Anargyri and Agia Paraskevi.
Tolo was a small fishing village that has developed into a tourist resort on the strength of its sandy beach.
The northeast Peloponnese welcomes us at Argos, the ancient strong point, today a point of departure for Nauplia - the first capital of free Greece - with the Bourtzi, an islet topped by a miniature fort, and the Palamidi rock. Sandy beaches, and local atmosphere complete the picture of Nafplion.
Porto Heli. A popular tourist spot built in a natural harbour, safe from all kinds of weather. Lush vegetation and a modern town of 750 inhabitants with restaurants, bouzouki places, nearby sandy and secluded beaches - mainly open to yachtsmen - guarantee unique holiday moments.
In Greek Monemvasia means one entrance. A Medieval, Byzantine and Venetian town fortress grasping the high cliffs. She is joined with the Peloponnesian Coast opposite, by a thin stretch of land. Walking through town will definitely prove an experience. After crossing the bridge with the twelve arches, which joins the cliff with the land opposite, and the remains of the fortress walls you will reach the town where ... time seems to have stopped. Mansions of strong Venetian influence, with more than 40 Byzantine Churches spread amongst them, numerous arches, and Coats of Arms. All these come into contrast with today's lively atmosphere, which awaits your visit. It is a memorable place that for Greeks is a reminder and historical symbol of pride and resistance.
Arid and dry complying totally with the natural characteristics of the nearby area of Mani. A small and quiet village built on the fringe of the sea, decorated by few olive trees and the remains of a Venetian Castle, the last stop of migrating quails. Walking through the wild nature and sailing along the steep and barren coastline will prove an overwhelming experience while tasting the local fresh fish is a must for all.
A small island close by Aegina with turquoise waters ideal for the swim of the day. Try “mezedes”, the Greek home made appetizers at a small taverna.
Is a small-uninhabited island that is partially wooded. It is a sanctuary for wild life and the sight of peacocks along the beach in the mornings is quite common.
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Greece or Hellas is a country of south-eastern Europe, with an area of 131,957 sq km. The population (2005) is 11,088,000. The Capital is Athens (Athina).The people are predominantly Greek. Language: Greek (official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Eastern Orthodox -official). The currency is the Euro. The land, with its vast archipelago of islands and extensive coastline, is intimately linked with the sea. About one-fifth of this mountainous country consists of lowland, much of this as coastal plains along the Aegean or as mountain valleys and small plains near river mouths. The interior is dominated by the Pindos Mountains, which extend from Albania on Greece's north-western border into the Peloponnesus (Peloponnesus). Mount Olympus is the country's highest peak. Among the Greek islands are the Aegean and the Ionian groups and Crete (Kriti). The climate is typically Mediterranean.
Greece has an advanced developing economy characterized mainly by private enterprise and based on agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. It is a multiparty republic with one legislative house. The chief of state is the President, and the head of government is the Prime Minister. The earliest urban society in Greece was the palace-centred Minoan civilization, which reached its height on Crete circa 2000 BC. It was succeeded by the mainland Mycenaean civilization, which arose circa 1600 BC following a wave of Indo-European invasions. About 1200 BC a second wave of invasions destroyed the Bronze Age cultures, and a Dark Age followed, known mostly through the epics of Homer. At the end of this time, Classical Greece began to emerge (circa 750 BC) as a collection of independent city-states, including Sparta in the Peloponnesus and Athens in Attica. The civilization reached its zenith after repelling the Persians at the beginning of the 5th century BC and began to decline after the civil strife of the Peloponnesian War at the century's end. In 338 BC the Greek city-states were taken over by Philip II of Macedonia, and Greek culture was spread by Philip's son Alexander the Great throughout his empire. The Romans, themselves heavily influenced by Greek culture, conquered the city-states in the 2nd century BC. After the fall of Rome, Greece remained part of the Byzantine Empire until the mid-15th century, when it became part of the expanding Ottoman Empire and finally gained its independence in 1832. It was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. Civil war followed and lasted until 1949, when communist forces were defeated. In 1952 Greece joined NATO. A military junta ruled the country from 1967 to 1974, when democracy was restored and a referendum declared an end to the Greek monarchy. In 1981 Greece joined the European Community and was the first eastern European country to do so.
Greece consists of a mountainous and craggy mainland jutting out into the sea at the southern end of the Balkans. The Peloponnesus peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth and numerous islands (around 3,000), including Crete, Euboea, Lesbos, Chios, the Dodecanese and the Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian Sea islands. Greece has the 10th longest coastline in the world with almost 15.000 kilometres out of which the land boundary is 1.160 kilometres.
Four fifths of Greece consist of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most mountainous in Europe. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and it is dominated by the Pindos mountain range. Pindos has a maximum elevation of 2.636 metres and it is essentially a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps. The range continues through the western Peloponnesus, crosses the islands of Cythera and Anticythera and finds its way into south-western Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. The islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once consisted of an extension of the mainland. Pindos is characterized by its high, steep peaks, often dissected by numerous canyons and a variety of other landscapes. Most notably, the impressive Meteora formation consisting of high, steep boulders provides a breathtaking experience for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year. Special lifts transfer visitors to the scenic monasteries that lie on top of those rocks. Meteora situated in the Trikala prefecture. The Vikos-Aoos Gorge is yet another spectacular formation. The Vicos-Aoos Gorge is a popular hotspot for those fond of extreme sports. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain of Greece. The mythical mountain is the highest in the country, located in the south-western Pieria prefecture, near Thessaloniki. Mytikas in Olympus range has a height of 2.918 metres at its highest peak. Once considered the throne of the Gods, it is today extremely popular among hikers and climbers who deem its height as a challenge. Moreover, north-eastern Greece features yet another high altitude mountain range, the Rhodope range, spreading across the periphery of East Macedonia and Thrace. This area is covered with vast, thick, ancient forests. The famous Dadia forest is in the prefecture of Evros, in the far northeast of the country.
Rare marine species such as the Pinniped Seals and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle live in the seas surrounding mainland Greece, while its dense forests are home to the endangered Brown Bear, the lynx, the Roe Deer and the Wild Goat.
Greek cooking traditions date back thousands of years. Greeks today eat some of the same dishes their ancestors did in ancient times. These include dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and many of the same fruits, vegetables, and grain products. A Greek named Archestratus, is thought to have written the first cookbook in 350 B.C.
The Greek diet has been influenced by traditions from both the East and West. In ancient times, the Persians and then the Turks introduced Middle East foods, such as yogurt, rice, and sweets made from nuts, honey, and sesame seeds. In 197 B.C., when Rome invaded Greece, the Romans brought with them foods that are typical in Italy today including pasta and sauces. Arab influences have left their mark in the southern part of Greece. Spices such as cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves play a prominent role in the diet of these regions. The Turks later introduced coffee to Greece. Potatoes and tomatoes were brought from the New World after exploration of the Americas began about five hundred years ago.
Foods of the Greeks
Fresh fruits and vegetables play a large role in the Greek diet. With its long coastline, Greece also relies heavily on fish and seafood. Meat tends to play a less important role. It is often used as an ingredient in vegetable dishes rather than a main dish. The islands and coastal areas of Greece favour lighter dishes that feature vegetables or seafood. In contrast, the inland regions use more meat and cheese in their cooking.
Greeks are not known for eating big breakfasts. Typical breakfast foods include bread, cheese, fresh fruit and, for adults, coffee. In rural areas, the main meal of the day is eaten at around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. It is followed by a rest period when schools and businesses close, allowing people to stay home during the hottest part of the day. In the cities, however, many people do not have time to go home for a large lunch. Instead they eat a light meal at midday and a larger dinner later on.
In the late afternoon, many Greeks help themselves to light refreshments called mezes. These may consist of bread, fresh vegetables, cheese, olives, dips etc. Mezes is sometimes served as appetizers at the beginning of a big meal. Unlike other Europeans, Greeks eat their evening meal late -sometimes as late as 10 p.m. In the city, dinner is the main meal. In rural areas where a big lunch is eaten, dinner is lighter. The most common dessert in Greece is fresh fruit, but the Greeks also love to eat sweets, either as a snack or dessert.
Greeks are known for their hospitality. A traditional offering for guests is glyko (sweet), a thick jam made with fruit or a vegetable such as tomato or eggplant. It is served with iced water and coffee. Since it is warm and sunny in Greece for so much of the year, eating outdoors is very popular.
Wines in Greece
Although ancient Greeks were renowned winemakers, modern Greeks certainly haven’t been viewed in the same light until recently. Part of this unenviable contemporary image is attached to Greece's Retsina wines, which for most outsiders is definitely an acquired taste. Greece started making inroads into modern wine-production techniques and quality control in the 1960s and 1970s as it worked to gain European Economic Community (EEC) membership, which was finalized in 1981. Starting in the early 1970s, the Greeks began implementing an appellation system based on the French model for their quality wines. As with other wine-quality systems, the qualifying categories are determined by several factors including the suitability and history of the grape variety, sugar levels, vineyard elevation, soil composition, yield per stremma (1⁄4 acre), and winemaking practices such as barrel aging.
Greek wines and spirits are just now being discovered and appreciated by connoisseurs - and the rest of us! The land that revered Dionysus and Bacchus as gods of wine is reviving a divine tradition of winemaking and the arts of the distillery. The industry is expanding and Greek wines are winning distinguished awards.
There are four distinct Greek categories. OPAP (Onomasía Proeléfseos Anotéras Piótitos), or Greece's "Appellation of Origin of Superior Quality," currently has twenty appellations. OPE (Onomasía Proeléfseos Eleghoméni), or "Controlled Appellation of Origin," has eight appellations and is for sweet wines made from Muscat or Mavrodaphni. Topikos Inos (local wine), the Greek equivalent to the French “Vins de pays” has 139 appellations. This last category has a special designation "Appellation by Tradition" which includes Retsina. Epitrapezios Inos (table wine) is equivalent to the French “Vin de table” and as in countries like France and Italy, winemakers sometimes choose to make some of their highest-quality wines in this category in order to not be constrained by the restrictions of the higher categories.
Three of Greece's top appellations producing red wines are Neméa, Náoussa, and Playies Melitona, the latter allowing the use of Cabernet Sauvignon and Vabernet Franc varieties. Other key OPAP appellations are Daphnes, Limnos, Patras, Rhodes, Santorini, Sitia, and Zitsa. Top OPE appellations are Mavrodaphne of Patras and Muscat of Samos. For OPAP and OPE categories, the term Reserve means that white wines have been aged for 2 years and red wines for 3 years. "Grand reserve" signifies that white wines have aged for 3 years and red wines for 4 years. For table wines, the term Kava indicates that white wines have been aged for 2 years and red wines for 3 years. White wines labelled "Reserve," "Grand Reserve," and "Kava" are generally sweet. Greece's principal growing regions include the Peloponnese, the large peninsula in the south of Greece that produces about one-third of the total wines, Macedonia and Epirus in the north, Attica, the second most productive region, which is in the south-eastern region around Athens, the Island of Crete and Cephalonia as well as other islands west of the mainland. There are also vineyards south and southeast of the mainland on the islands of Rhodes, Samos, and Santorini.
The main white grapes of Greece are Savatiano (the most widely planted of all varieties), Assyrtiko, Moscophilero, Robola, and Rhoditis. Red varieties include Agiorgitiko (also called St. George and used in the well-known Neméa wines), Liatiko, Limnio, Mandilaria, Romeiko, and the highly respected Xinomayro, used to make Naoussa. Also planted in large quantities are Malvasia, used to make a Malmsey-style wine called Monemvasia, and Muscat, which makes a delicious dessert wine.
Ouzo is a Greek anise-flavoured liqueur that is widely consumed in Greece. The name dates back to the late 19th century, but is of uncertain origin. It is similar to the French Pastis, but a little sweeter and smoother, so that it is pleasant to drink either "straight" or mixed with water.
The history of ouzo is somewhat murky, but some claim it may date back in one form or another to ancient times. Its precursor is tsipouro (or as it is known by Easterners as raki), a drink distilled throughout the Byzantine and later Ottoman Empires. Modern ouzo distillation largely took off in the 19th century following Greek independence, with much production cantered on the island of Lesbos (Mitilini), which claims to be the originator of the drink and remains a major producer. In 1932, ouzo producers developed the method of distillation using copper stills, which is now considered the canonically proper method of production.
On the 25th October 2006, Greece won the right to label ouzo as an exclusively Greek product. The European Union now recognizes ouzo, as well as the Greek drinks of tsipouro and tsikoudia, as products with a protected designation of origin, which prohibits makers outside Greece from using the name.
One most likely version for the name ouzo is the following. Thessaly exported fine cocoons to Marseilles during the 19th century, and in order to distinguish the product, outgoing crates would be stamped with the words “uso Massalia”, Italian for “to be used by Marseilles”. One day, the Turkish consulate physician, named Anastas Bey, happened to be visiting the town of Tyrnavos and was asked to sample the local tsipouro. Upon tasting the drink, the physician immediately exclaimed: “This is uso Massalia, my friends”, referring to its high quality. The term subsequently spread by word of mouth, until tsipouro gradually became known as ouzo.
Ouzo starts by distilling 96% ABV pure ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin (or 96% pure ethyl alcohol in which 0.05% natural anethole has been added), in copper stills together with anise and optionally other flavourings. The product is a flavoured alcoholic solution known as flavoured ethyl alcohol or, more commonly as ouzo yeast (a misnomer really, as no fermentation has taken or will take place). Ouzo yeast is then usually mixed with 96% pure ethyl alcohol (the Greek law dictates that at least 20% of total final alcohol must originate from ouzo yeast), and finally sugar may be added and the mix is diluted with water (final ABV must be at least 37.5%) , usually around 40% ABV. Needless to say, this latter type of ouzo is of the highest quality. Please take note that ouzo production does not include any fermentation or multiple distillations whatsoever; this is the case for tsipouro, another well known Greek alcoholic drink which is actually more related to Italian grappa than ouzo.
In modern Greece, ouzeries (the suffix -erie is imported from French) can be found in nearly all cities, towns, and villages. These cafe-like establishments serve ouzo with mezedes, which are appetizers such as octopus, salad, sardines, calamari, fried zucchini and clams among others. The simplest mezes is a small plate with bits of cheese, olives, cucumber, fried sausage, fried cheese in oil and sliced tomato bits, which is said to be ouzo’s “thief” helping to absorb the alcohol. It is traditionally slowly sipped (usually mixed with water and/or ice) together with mezedes shared with others over a period of several hours in the early evening.
When water or ice is added to ouzo, which is clear in colour, it turns milky white. This is because anethole, the essential oil of anise, is soluble in alcohol but not water. Diluting the spirit causes it to separate creating an emulsion, whose fine droplets scatter the light. The crystals sometimes seen in ouzo served cold are crystalline anethole, the constituent of anise aroma. That's why one should avoid serving ouzo cold. Many people say that ouzo does not taste the same when it is consumed outside Greece, just as pastis definitely is not the same when tried outside France. Our opinion is that ouzo can be enjoyed anywhere, as long as it is good.
The world famous Metaxa
Metaxa is distinguished as the most famous Greek spirit worldwide. It is mistaken as a brandy but in actual fact is something more. Thus, when we are talking about Metaxa we refer to this unique spirit and not to a brandy product.
Metaxa is produced from Savatiano, Sultanina and Black Corinth, twice distilled, married with aged Muscat wine from Samos & Lemnos, blended with a secret botanical mix and then aged in hand made limousine oak casks.
In the world market, Metaxa is generally available in three versions: Three Star, Five Star, and Seven Star. Each star represents a year that it's been aged in oak barrels, thus the Seven Star is the most aged and selected type. The line of the "Metaxa" products available in the Greek market is:
- Metaxa 3star (at least 3 years old).
- Metaxa 5star (at least 5 years old).
- Metaxa 7star Amphora (at least 7 years old).
- Metaxa Private Reserve (at least 20 years old).
There is no difference in terms of quality and production process between the different Metaxa products. As in every family, age is the only uncommon characteristic. In the Metaxa family the youngest is the 3 star and the oldest vintage is the Private Reserve. It is worth pointing out that other Metaxa products considered as collector items are sold only at selected shops throughout the world, including Greece.
Modern Greek Cuisine
Greek cuisine is the cuisine of Greece and of the Greeks. It is typical of Mediterranean cuisine accompanied by commonalities with the cuisines of the Balkans and Anatolia. The most characteristic and ancient element of Greek cooking is olive oil, which is present in almost every dish. It is produced from the trees prominent throughout the region and adds to the distinctive taste of Greek food. The basic grain in Greece is wheat, though barley is also grown. Important vegetables include tomato, eggplant, potato, green beans, onions and garlic. Honey in Greece is mainly flower-honey from the nectar of fruit and citrus trees (lemon, orange), thyme honey, and pine honey from conifer trees. Mastic is grown on the Aegean island of Chios.
Compared to other Mediterranean cuisines, Greek cuisine mostly uses oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and bay leaves. Other common spices include basil, thyme and fennel seed. Many Greek recipes use sweet spices in combination with meat, for example the use of cinnamon and cloves in stews and nutmeg in dishes containing white sauce. Greek flavour is often characterized by the use of mint and nutmeg. Other typical ingredients are lamb, pork, olives, feta cheese, vine leaves, zucchini and yogurt. Dessert items are dominated by nuts and honey.
The terrain has tended to favour the production of goats, sheep and cattle. Fish dishes are also common, especially in coastal regions and the islands. A great variety of cheese types are used in Greek cuisine, including Feta, Kasseri and Mizithra. Some dishes use filo pastry. Too much refinement is generally considered to be against the hearty spirit of the Greek cuisine, though recent trends among Greek culinary circles tend to favor a somewhat more refined approach. Traditionally, Greek dishes are served warm rather than hot.
Contemporary Greek cookery is typical of Mediterranean cuisine, making wide use of olive oil, grains and bread, wine, fish, and various meats, including poultry and rabbit. Some popular dishes show particular commonalities with Ottoman cuisine. Some dishes can be traced back to ancient Greece (Trahanas, Skordalia, lentil soup, Retsina, Pasteli), some to the Hellenistic and Roman periods (Loukaniko) and Byzantine (feta cheese, avgotaraho, paximadi). Many dishes come from the Ottoman tradition, which in turn was influenced by Arab and Persian cuisines, and their names reveal Arabic, Persian or Turkish roots such as Moussakas (Arabic,) Baklavas (Arabic,) Tzatziki (Turkish,) Yuvarlakia (Turkish,) and Keftedhes (Persian.) It is difficult to date when these dishes entered Greece. Many probably entered during Ottoman times, but there was earlier contact with the Persians and the Arabs. Some dishes may be pre-Ottoman, only taking Turkish names later. For example, vine-leaf Dolmathes were made by the early Byzantine period. A few dishes come from what is now regarded as Italian culinary tradition, such as Pastitsio, Makaronia me kima. Recently American food has also become more popular in Greece, with local fast-food chains springing up.
Typical Greek food is simple, colourful and packed with robust flavours. Although many dishes show influences from the Greek past, they have a distinctive style of their own which has changed little over the years. Greek cuisine has a long tradition of fine cooking and the full range of Greek dishes usually remains undiscovered by the tourist.
The appetizers are also numerous. Meze is a collective name for appetizers, typically served with wine or Ouzo. Dips are served with loaf bread or pita bread. In some regions, dried bread (paximadi) is softened in water. Let us go through some of the most common Greek specialities.
- Greek salad. The so-called Greek Salad is known in Greece as Village/Country Salad (Horiatiki).
- Tzatziki is yoghurt with cucumber and garlic puree, and it is used as a dip.
- Tamamosalata is fish roe mixed with boiled potatoes or moistened breadcrumbs.
- Horta is wild or cultivated greens, steamed or blanched and made into salad, simply dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. They can also be eaten as a light meal followed by feta cheese.
- Dolmades are grapevine leaves stuffed either with rice and meat.
- Spanakopita is spinach pie with feta cheese.
- Tyropita is a cheese pie (usually Feta) wrapped in filo pastry.
- Bourekaki is individually wrapped vegetable, cheese and meat fillings in filo pastry or dough.
- Saganaki is fried cheese (plain, but also including other ingredients such as shrimp).
- Fasolada is a bean soup defined in many cookery books as the traditional Greek dish. It is made of beans, tomatoes, carrot, celery and a lot of olive oil.
- Fakes is a lentil soup and one of the famous everyday Greek soups, usually served with vinegar and olives.
- Revithia is a chickpea soup
- Megiritsa is the traditional soup at Easter usually made of lamb offal and eaten late Saturday before Easter Sunday.
- Psarosoupa or “fish soup” can be cooked with a variety of fish types, and several kinds of vegetables (carrots, parsley, celery, potatoes, onion) which blended with olive oil.
- Avgolemono or “egg-lemon soup” is chicken, meat, vegetable, or fish broth thickened with eggs and lemon juice, and rice.
- Moussaka (eggplant, potatoes and minced meat topped with béchamel). There are other variations besides eggplant, such as zucchini or rice, but the eggplant version ("melitzanes moussaka") is most popular, so "moussaka" alone is assumed to mean "with eggplant".
- Kleftiko: literally meaning "of the thief", this is lamb slow-baked on the bone, first marinated in garlic and lemon juice, originally cooked in a pit oven.
- Stifado is a beef-onion stew with red wine and cinnamon. Rabbit or game (e.g. hare) are also cooked stifado-style
- Souvlaki is anything grilled on a skewer (chicken, pork, veal) usually served rolled in pita bread. Most common is pork or chicken, often marinated in oil, salt, pepper, oregano and lemon.
- Baked stuffed vegetables (yemista), tomato, pepper, or other vegetable hollowed out and baked with rice or ground meat and other fillings.
- Gyros is meat roasted on a vertically turning spit and served with sauce (often tzatziki) and garnishes (tomato, onions) on pita bread, a popular fast food for all Greeks. Sometimes confused with souvlaki served in a similar way. The idea is derived from the Turkish dish called doner kebab).
- Soutzoukakia Smyrneika (Smyrna soujouk) are large meatballs with cumin, cinnamon and garlic and served in a tomato sauce.
- Spetzofai, a dish with country sausages, peppers, onions and wine originating from mount Pelion.
- Keftedes are fried meatballs with oregano and mint.
- Grilled octopus in vinegar, oil and oregano, accompanied by Ouzo.
- Bekri meze (drunkard's snack), diced beef marinated in wine, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, olive oil and cooked slowly.
- Pastitsio is a baked pasta dish with a filling of ground meat and a Béchamel sauce topping.
- Grilled lamb chops (païdakia) with lemon, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Yahni is a variety of stews based on meat, fish, or vegetables cooked with onions, tomato, and olive oil.
- Greek desserts
- Baklava, a popular sweet dessert, of filo pastry layers with nuts, sugar, syrup, and cloves.
- Loukoumades are similar to donuts. Loukoumades are essentially fried balls of dough drenched in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.
- Karidopita, a walnut cake.
- Koulourakia, buttered cookies.
- Kourabiedes, buttered (can also include olive oil) cookies with powdered sugar and almonds, mainly made during the Christmas period.
- Melomakarona, cookies soaked in a syrup of honey (meli in Greek thus melomakarona) and sugar, topped with walnuts and almonds, also traditional during Christmas.
- Yoghurt with honey.
- Galaktoboureko, custard between layers of filo. The name derives from the Greek "gala", meaning milk, and from the Turkish borek, meaning filled, thus meaning "filled with milk."
- Rizogalo (rice-milk) is equivalent to rice pudding.
- Greek coffee, a derivative of Turkish coffee is, made by boiling finely ground coffee beans, and is served thick and strong, and often sweetened.
- Greek frappé coffee, a foam-covered drink derived from spray-dried instant coffee that is consumed cold.